Champ de Noël

4.jpg

Here is my version.  Not as perfectly neat, but it tastes amazing. IMG_2536.jpg

Have fun making this to impress family and friends with this modern twist on a classic bûche de Noël stolen from Fine Cooking Magazine.

This delightful looking cake was featured in the December edition of Fine Cooking, one of my favorite magazines.  I stole the photo from the article but will post mine tomorrow when it is decorated.

The layers are vertical rather than horizontal, making for a very dramatic reveal. It is an “all-day” project or one you can do over several days.

[Get a PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION HERE with all step-by-step photos.]

This version looks cool, but all the classic elements and flavor pairings are here, so it’s guaranteed to be delicious. The vanilla sponge cake has a delicate texture, yet it’s sturdy enough to “literally” stand on end. The layers are doused with a boozy soaking syrup before they’re coated with a smooth-as-silk, espresso-spiked white chocolate ganache filling and coated with a dreamy, creamy and eggless double-chocolate buttercream.

Like the traditional bûche, the garnishes for this cake can be rustic, whimsical, or elegant. I like to use the tines of a fork to create a barklike design in the buttercream around the side of the cake. Just before serving, I may top the cake with a cluster or two of small meringue mushrooms along with chocolate shavings for bark. You can add silver or white dragées for ice crystals, sugar-coated cranberries for a pop of color, a mint sprig or two for signs of spring, chopped pistachios for lichen, and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar for snow. Extra meringue mushrooms look great arranged around the base of the cake.

Vertical variation

While the garnishes make the cake look spectacular, what people really want to know is how I make those magical vertical layers.
All in all, it’s a straightforward process: You use what could be called a “wrapping” technique to assemble the cake. After baking the sponge cake in a large rimmed baking sheet, cut it into five strips. To train the shape of the innermost strip of cake and avoid cracking in the final product, I roll up one strip in paper towels while it’s still warm, just as you would when you’re making a jelly roll. I then roll the remaining strips up in a tight spiral together to train them. The ends of these strips are cut on an angle to create beveled edges; this step helps the strips to lie flat as the cake is assembled.

Start building the cake by brushing the innermost strip with soaking syrup then coating it with white chocolate espresso ganache. After this centerpiece is rolled and positioned on a plate, brush, fill, and wrap the remaining four beveled cake strips one at a time around it. The technique sounds complicated, but as you’ll see, it’s an easy-to-follow
process.

 Champ de Noël

HOW TO BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CHARCUTERIE BOARD

I found this article on food.com and really enjoyed it, as I love a great Charcuterie Board and this article gave something to think about.  Although my boards usually look pretty good, they are not as beautiful as the one shown below.

Entertaining 101

 

Do you ever scroll through picture-perfect cheese boards and think, “I could never do that”? The good news is, it’s a lot easier than it looks! Just follow this easy, step-by-step tutorial to build an epic charcuterie board for any occasion.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: CHEESE!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: CHEESE!

Choose 3-4 types and a mix of soft and hard cheeses, all served at room temperature: Goat, Gruyere, Gorgonzola, Manchego, Burrata, Brie, Sharp Cheddar, White Cheddar, Havarti, Boursin

Think of  creative ways to display your cheese:
* Cubed and piled up to add height and dimension
* Cut into thin, square slices and fanned out along the edge of the board
* Cut into thin, triangular slices and placed in a circle, with points facing in
* Served in large wedges for guests to cut themselves

 

MEET ME AT THE MEAT AISLE

MEET ME AT THE MEAT AISLE

Choose 2-3 types, preferably pre-sliced: Salami, Prosciutto, Sopressata, Pepperoni, Bresaola, Pâté, Smoked Salmon

Think of creative ways to display your meats:
* Fold round, thin slices of meat in half, then fold again.
* Arrange to form a salami rose bouquet!
* Roll up slices of prosciutto and stack them on top of each other.
* Sopressata is usually cut into thick rounds, so fan these across the board.

 

ADD CONDIMENTS + SIDEKICKS

ADD CONDIMENTS + SIDEKICKS

You can’t have condiments without bowls! Invest in a few ramekins for displaying sauces, dips and salty, briny snacks that complement your meats and cheeses. Think about which of these options you might add:   Honey, Whole Grain Mustard, Jam/Preserves, Infused Oil, Pickled Vegetables, Olives, Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Peppers, Cornichons and I personally like the idea of Sweet Chili Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, and Spicy Jams or Jellies

 

BRING THE COLOR WITH FRESH FRUIT

BRING THE COLOR WITH FRESH FRUIT

Try a mix of fresh fruits that are flavorful and abundant all year long (like Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Cantaloupe, Grapes) and dried fruit for options that are only available seasonally (like Mango, Apricots, Figs, Cranberries).

Creative ways to display fruit:
* Cut long, thin wedges of cantaloupe and fan them out or wrap thin slices of prosciutto around the middle.
* Choose whole dried figs and halve them to display their pretty seeds and centers.  If fresh figs are in season, that is even better.

LET’S. GET. CRUNCHY.

LET’S GET CRUNCHY.

Nuts and crackers or crisps are easy additions that require no extra prep work! Choose a few to round out your board: Pistachios, Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Cashews, Mini Toasts, Seeded Crackers, Cheese Twists, Water Crackers, Crispy Breadsticks, Pita Chips

* Use nuts to fill in any gaps in your board by stacking them in piles around other ingredients.
* Add extra height and interest by placing breadsticks or cheese twists upright and fanning crackers across the board in swirls.

FINISH WITH A LITTLE RAZZLE DAZZLE

FINISH WITH A LITTLE RAZZLE DAZZLE

When it comes to finishing touches, garnishes go a long way to add a hint of color and freshness. Try: Rosemary Sprigs, Basil Leaves, Mint Sprigs, Fresh or Dried Lavender

 

NO BOARD, NO PROBLEM

NO BOARD, NOT A PROBLEM

Don’t have a wooden board handy and prefer not to buy one? Feel free to use everyday kitchen tools like a pizza paddle, cast iron skillet or a sheet pan of any size to display the fruits of your labor (pun intended)!

 

 

HOW TO BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Paleo Sausage & Cauliflower Casserole

1.jpgIngredients

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. Italian sausage, casings removed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs thyme

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

1/2 cup almond flour

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the cauliflower florets to the pot and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse the florets with cold water. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes until browned, using a spoon to break into small pieces. Stir in the onion, garlic, and thyme. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes and juices to the pan and cook for 5 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Remove the skillet from heat and carefully stir in the cauliflower. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with almond flour. Bake for 20 minutes, and then turn the oven to broil and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Garnish with parsley to serve.
Paleo Sausage & Cauliflower Casserole

Seared Scallops with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce and Orzo

IMG_1442.jpg

In just 30 minutes you can have restaurant-worthy seared scallops ready for a delicious weeknight dinner. This summertime recipe makes great use of your garden tomatoes and basil. Sea scallops called large or jumbo scallops, are up to three times larger in size than bay scallops. They have a sweet, delicate flavor and slightly chewy texture. The jumbo scallops make great main dishes, and the smaller bay scallops are ideal stirred into pasta dishes or tossed onto salads. Look for dry-packed scallops, which are packed without extra water or preservatives. This helps them brown nicely when cooked. Dry-packed scallops have a shorter shelf life than wet-packed scallops, so cook them the day you buy them.

How to Make It

Step 1

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally until softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the basil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes burst and release their juices, 6 to 7 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; cover and keep warm.

 

Step 2

Wipe skillet clean. Pat scallops dry with paper towels, and season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over high. Add scallops, and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute and 30 seconds per side. (Do not overcook.)

 

Step 3

Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Stir in butter and parsley.

Step 4

Divide orzo among serving plates; top each with about 2/3 cup tomato sauce and 4 scallops. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons basil.

Seared Scallops with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce and Orzo

Easy Chicken Dinner

chicken.jpgIt is warm outside and the sun is shining and I really don’t want to be in the kitchen, so an easy quick dinner it is!  I recently picked up the new America’s Test Kitchen’s “Simple” and adapted one of the recipes to my liking.  The recipe was Chicken with Tomato Salsa.

For the salsa:

Cut a cup or so of cherry tomatoes into quarters

Add 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of good olive oil

Sliced basil to taste

Salt & Pepper and maybe a little red pepper if you want more of a kick to it

I added half an avocado (cut into 1/4″ pieces)

Mix together and put aside.

For the chicken:

I used two chicken breasts and cut them in half, so they would be thinner and cook faster. Dipped them in two stirred eggs (but one might work), dipped them in a mixture of gluten-free panko and parmesan and quickly sauteed (about 2 minutes per side) in olive oil.

*Here is a tip: 

When using olive oil, always heat the pan before you add the olive oil.  But with butter melt it in a pan that heats as the butter melts.  

Serve on a nice platter with the extra basil for decoration!  And of course, put the tomato salsa on top.  Delicious, moist and very pretty.

BEETS

This is the easiest way I know to cook beets.  Wash the beets, cut off the greens and a bit of the other end.  Peel, but on a cooking tray (I line with aluminum foil – so I don’t have to scrub it), put a little olive oil (EVOO), salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes at 425°.

Enjoy this easy and fast (other than the time the beets take to cook) dinner.

 

 

 

Easy Chicken Dinner

Three Cheese Gourgeres

Cheese Gourgers.jpgYield: Makes About 4 Dozen

Ingredients

  • 34 cup whole milk
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
  • 12 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 cups flour
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. Comté cheese, grated
  • 4 oz. Emmentaler cheese, grated
  • 4 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425°. Bring milk, butter, salt, and 13 cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high. Add flour; stir until dough forms. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring dough constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly dried, about 2 minutes. If the dough is not dry enough, the gourgeres will not rise when cooked.  Transfer to a bowl; using a hand mixer, beat in 1 egg until smooth. Repeat with remaining eggs, beating well after each addition, until dough is smooth; stir in half each of the cheeses.
  2. Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a plain 12” tip. Using a swirling motion, pipe 1 12“-tall mounds of dough, about 1” in diameter, onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets; sprinkle tops with remaining cheeses. Place in oven and reduce temperature to 375°. Bake gougères until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Three Cheese Gourgeres

What’s the Difference?

Yellow, White, and Red Onions

onions.jpg

Today, I decided to make Gyros for dinner and was looking up recipes for the sauce and what to add in the Gyro itself. Most recipes called for onions, not specifying which to use.  I got curious about why you use certain onions for certain things and can they be interchangeable.  I found the following information useful.

Wonder why some recipes call for a particular kind of onion and whether another can be substituted in its place?

 

All these onions vary slightly in flavor, texture, and color, but can usually be substituted for one another. In terms of cooking, they will all behave the same in the pan.

When buying onions, go for ones that feel heavy in your hand and firm. Avoid soft onions or ones that have a sharp oniony odor before peeling. These are indications that the onion is old. Except for sweet onions, all these onions can be stored for several weeks in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.

 

Yellow Onions  This is the all-purpose onion, and it’s the one we use most often. Yellow onions have a nice balance of astringency and sweet in their flavor, becoming sweeter the longer they cook. They are usually fist-sized and have a fairly tough outer skin and meaty layers. Spanish onions are a particular kind of yellow onion and we find them to be slightly sweeter and more delicate in flavor.

 

White Onions – These onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow onions. They tend to be more tender and have a thinner, more papery skin. They can be cooked just like yellow onions, but we like them minced and added to raw salsas and chutneys.

 

Sweet Onions – Walla Walla and Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. These onions lack the sharp, astringent taste of other onions and really do taste sweet. They are fantastic thinly sliced and served in salads or on top of sandwiches. They can range in color from white to yellow and often have a flattened or squashed appearance. Sweet onions tend to be more perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator.

 

Red Onions – With their deep purple outer skin and reddish flesh, these are really the odd guys out in the onion family. They are fairly similar to yellow onions in flavor, though their layers are slightly less tender and meaty. Red onions are most often used in salads, salsas, and other raw preparations for their color and relatively mild flavor. The lovely red color becomes washed out during cooking. If you find their flavor to astringent for eating raw, try soaking them in water before serving.

Onions are a garden favorite and can be eaten raw, in salsas and salads, and cooked into your favorite recipes. Home gardeners can choose from onion varieties that are mildly sweet to pungent. Because onions are affected by the amount of light they receive, some grow better in the North, while others perform better in the South. Short-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 10-12 hours and are often the sweetest and best for eating raw. They’re most often grown in the South. Long-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 14-16 hours. They are usually pungent, often store well for many months, and are usually grown in the North. Day-neutral onions are a cross of the two types. Onions can be started from seeds, sets, and plants.

Shallots

Shallots have a subtle flavor that is much milder than onions or garlic and are a favorite of gourmet cooks. Their flavor really shines when sautéed in butter or olive oil. Like green onions, their green shoots and bulbs are edible and the green shoots can be used as a green onion or scallion substitute. While shallots can be grown from seed, growing them from sets is often easiest. After harvest, cured bulbs can be stored for up to six months.

Leeks

Leeks look like overgrown green onions but have a milder, more delicate flavor than onions. The white base and green stalk are used for cooking in creamy soups, fresh, stocks and more. Leeks can be direct seeded outdoors or started indoors and transplanted into the garden. Thinning during the growing allows the plant to grow much larger. After harvest, leeks can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks—or they can be dried for storage.

Remember…

Onions, shallots, and leeks are not considered interchangeable when it comes to cooking, even though some blogs and websites might say they are interchangable. Make sure you use whichever your recipe calls for, as the distinct flavor of each may alter the taste of your dish.

 

Do you have a favorite kind of onion?

 

MOST TALKED ABOUT
dmelzah
11 Apr
These kitchens would be great for someone who doesn’t cook. Those of us who do need places to store things.
People Are Ditching Their Upper Kitchen Cabinets and I Don’t Think I Like It
againstthegrain
23 May, 2014
Definitely, regular use of the range hood fan and cleaning of the filters is a good way to remove the odors and nasty fumes created by cooking.One thing I’d like to point out about reducing the oily residue that adheres to the exhaust fan is that certain cooking techniques create more sticky, aerosolized nastiness than others, and some grease and oil films are more resistant to cleanup than others, too, esp if allowed to sit and harden.Stir frying is the worst for creating aerosolized oily fumes that cling to surfaces around the stove and kitchen, with or without a range hood fan. The heat, the open pan, the constant motion continually kicks up oily fumes that settle on surfaces much farther than most cooks realize.Cooking low and slow takes more time, but also reduces the amount of oil and grease splattering into the air and around the stove, often producing better food in the process. Simmering, braising, and slow cooking generally create less oily mess to clean up overall. Cooking in a pressure cooker saves time and keeps open pot cooking time to a minimum, therefore reduces splatter and aerosolized fumes.Furthermore, oil sprays, such as PAM and knockoffs, create a LOT of sticky, persistent aerosolized oil drift that is VERY difficult to wash away once it hardens and dries – newer formulas claim to create less residue on cookware, but less isn’t none. Spray cookware over the sink for easier cleanup of overspray, or spray outside the house (or better yet, don’t spray at all and avoid filling lungs with oily spray, too).Cooking in open pans with polyunsaturated oils from seeds (vegetable oil, canola, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil sunflower oil, etc., tends to promote oily fume creation. Fumes from polyunsaturated oils settle on surfaces and then become rancid, hardened, and quite plasticized. These films are very resistant to scrubbing and cleansers.I have found that cooking with traditional and more stable fats like butter, ghee, tallow, bacon drippings, duck fat, and coconut or palm oil tends creates less oily fumes (esp if food is cooked low and slow instead of stir-frying and high heat sautéing). Splatters will still occur round the pan perhaps, but they tend not to aerosolize and form thin sticky fumes that create resistant films to the same extent as polyunsaturated oils when they settle on kitchen surfaces.I became aware of the the change in the rate of oily film buildup in my range hood and surfaces adjacent to my stove when my cooking changed over the past few years – I had stopped using and buying seed oils and making quick sauté recipes. Instead I made more traditional braising and simmering recipes using traditional fats instead of oils. The lack of oily film buildup after several years of cooking differently was particularly noticeable when we were away for four months last year and had house sitters in our house during our absence; they stir fried most of their meals on high heat with a liquid oil. While the stove and kitchen was generally clean at first glance when we returned home, an oily residue had settled inside and outside the range hood and on the cabinets around the stove , and was far worse than I’d ever experienced with my own cooking, even when the range fan hadn’t been working.
How To Clean a Greasy Range Hood Filter
herms
24 Jan, 2014
I take that back, I also peel swede, since it’s usually waxed.
To Peel or Not to Peel: 7 Questions I Ask Myself Before Peeling a Vegetable
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What’s the Difference?

Simple Kitchen Habits

It doesn’t have to be fancy to be a little more efficient.

Whether you learned to cook from your parents, taught yourself on YouTube, or graduated from a culinary program, we all have certain ways about moving about the space of a kitchen. Some of those are deeply ingrained, and you might not even realize that you’re doing them. Some of them might be thanks to the space that you’re working in, or the particular mechanics of the food you prepare at home.  A culinary techniques program might help you to step back and reassess the way that you use your kitchen and make cooking easier.

Having proper equipment is important. A good sturdy bowl and cutting board will make your life easier. How you organize your space and move through it might be one of the first things to change in your kitchen. Here are a few good kitchen habits that will help.

Read the Recipe All the Way Through First

This might seem like really obvious advice to you, sort of like “measure twice, cut once.” But it’s easy to glance through the list of ingredients and the basic preparation without looking through the whole recipe, only to realize that it requires more time or different equipment than you have on hand. It’s equally easy to miss what turns out to be a crucial step when you’re working quickly and haven’t seen it before. Take time and read it, and get into the habit of always doing that before you even set off to the grocery store, and it will save you a lot of hassle.

Invest in Kitchen Towels

At the beginning of every class for my culinary program, I would set up my station, which meant cleaning and sanitizing my workspace, setting up my knives and tools, grabbing a giant cutting board from a rack, and folding a stack of side towels into quarters so I could easily grab them. I went through probably five towels a class, and we used them for everything. They act as potholders and as an easy way to stabilize a bowl you’re whipping cream or to put under your cutting board to keep it in place.  At the end of class, we put them in a giant laundry bag.

At home, it’s easy to be precious about your kitchen towels, which are often printed with something decorative. If you don’t have kitchen towels that you don’t mind staining, grab some cheap ones at Home Goods or TJX Maxx. Keep a stack of them easily available to you while you work. Use a towel or two each time you’re doing serious cooking, and then throw it in the wash. It’ll cut down a lot on your paper towels, and you’ll always have something handy to insulate your hand from a hot pan or wipe up a small spatter.

Hone Your Knife Often

A dull knife is an enemy of even knife cuts, and of your fingers. But people tend to concentrate far more on sharpening their knives than honing them, and honing can maintain your knife’s sharpness a lot more easily. When you sharpen a knife, you’re actually taking a small amount of the material off the blade of the knife to return it to its edge. Unless you’re using your knife very heavily every day you probably don’t need to sharpen your knife more than once or twice a year. Instead, you can realign the blade using a honing rod, and help extend the sharpness of your knives. It helps to hone it fairly often when you’re cooking, whenever you feel the blade begin to drag a bit. And it’s much cheaper than buying a new knife.

Now I personally found this advice off, as I re-sharpen mine every time I use it.

Have a Trash Bowl

When you’re prepping vegetables or meat, designate a bowl nearby that you can put scraps from your cutting board into. That way you don’t have to interrupt your workflow by running to dump things into the trash every few minutes, and you can more clearly see what kind of scraps you’re working with and whether they’d be useful for something like a chicken stock later on.

In my kitchen the trash is right below where I cut and chop, so I finish I just scrap it into the trash, but I was lucky enough to design my own kitchen.

Keep Two Olive Oils on Hand

Olive oil is one of the things you tend to go through a lot of in the kitchen if you cook a lot, and though it would be nice use extremely nice olive oil for everything, it doesn’t make sense, or even for the flavors of lots of things. For that reason have one more affordable but still good olive oil on hand for everyday tasks like cooking eggs or vegetables, and one higher-end one in a smaller bottle for drizzling over salad or good bread, when the flavor is really pronounced. For every day, California Olive Ranch’s Every Day Extra Virgin Olive Oil makes a great oil that’s available and affordable, and for when I want something peppery and a little nicer,  reaching Gaea’s DOP Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Use what tastes good to you and what you can afford. Just make sure that you’re storing it well and use it within a few months. Otherwise, no matter how nice your oil is, it’ll go rancid.

Keep Your Salt Easily Accessible and Use It Liberally

 

The single easiest thing you can do to make yourself a better cook is to put the salt you use for seasoning in a bowl, rather than keeping it in a shaker or a container with a pour spout. It’s a really good habit to get into because you can more easily add pinches or palmfuls of salt into what you’re making and get a feel for how much you need for it to taste right. It’s also easy to be afraid of adding salt for fear of making a dish too salty. When you’re seasoning a dish, using salt is what makes the ingredients taste more like themselves.

Weigh, Don’t Measure

This is another adage that you’ve probably heard, but it is shocking how much a kitchen scale can make a difference in your whole cooking and baking game. But the measuring spoons and cups are probably right there, and well, it’s easier to reach for them. Make it easy to reach for the scale and a bowl, and you’ll get in the habit of doing that for ingredients that really need to be precise, like flour or sugar when baking.

Prep Before You Start Cooking

No one has unlimited times in their lives. It’s a normal thing to want to start the dish and the cut up the carrots or celery or whatever to go into it. And it’s a strategy that can work, or it can leave you frantically hacking at the tomatoes while the onions go from brown to burned in the pan. If you have your ingredients measured and prepped before you start, it’s going to make the cooking process that much smoother. There’s often room in recipes for you to cut and prep things while something else is simmering, a thing you’ll discover when you read the recipe all the way through. But at least prepare the things you know you’re going to need immediately, or during a time-sensitive step in the process. Leave the garnish for later.

Pay Attention to Ingredient Temperature

Can you use the egg straight from the refrigerator or does it need to come to room temperature? In baking, you’ve probably run into butter that needs to be softened or melted and cooled before incorporating it into a batter. Other cooking is the same way, particularly when it comes to proteins. Letting your meat come to room temperature will help it cook more evenly, and having your water hot or cold before you add it can alter the outcome of what you’re making. Making a mental note to keep tabs on how warm things are while your working is a good habit to get into.

Simple Kitchen Habits

Pork Loin with Spinach & Goat Cheese

pork.jpg

A sophisticated stuffing of creamy goat cheese, silky spinach, and lemony herbs give this lean and mighty pork loin 5-star flavor. Topped with apricot-infused sweet and sour sauce, we tip our hats to the slow cooker for coaxing out this degree of decadence. To achieve the coveted crisp-tender texture of the pork, we recommend browning it on all sides before placing it in the slow cooker. Once cooked, use a serrated knife to slice the pork with ease. Pair this divine main with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans or garlicky Brussels for a well-rounded meal that is sure to impress.

 

How to Make It

Step 1

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until shallots are caramelized. Add spinach; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until wilted. Remove from heat.

Step 2

Combine goat cheese, chives, parsley, and lemon rind in a small bowl.

Step 3

Holding knife flat and parallel to cutting board, cut horizontally through the center of pork loin, cutting to, but not through, the other side. Open flat, as you would a book. Starting at the center seam, cut horizontally through each half, cutting to, but not through, the other side. Open flat on either side. Place pork between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to an even 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small, heavy skillet. Remove plastic wrap.

Step 4

Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread goat cheese mixture evenly over pork; top with the shallot mixture. Roll up pork jelly-roll fashion. Tie with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals. Sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Step 5

Wipe pan clean. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add pork; cook 3 minutes per side or until browned. Place stuffed pork in a 5-quart slow cooker.

Step 6

Add apricot preserves, butter, and mustard to pan; reduce heat to medium. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until butter melts. Pour over pork loin in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of pork registers 145°F. I cooked mine in the oven at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes and it was just great. 

Step 7

Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 15 minutes. Skim and discard fat from sauce in the slow cooker. Pour sauce into a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook 5 minutes, until reduced to about 1 cup. Stir in vinegar.

Step 8

Remove and discard twine. Slice pork into 12 slices; serve with sauce.

Pork Loin with Spinach & Goat Cheese

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies

cookie.jpgChocolate Toffee Butter Cookies – Makes 5 dozen

2 1/3 cups flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt ( I use French Gray)

1 cup unsalted butter (softened, but cool)

1 cup packed light brown sugar (not dark brown)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup toffee bits without chocolate ( I just used English Toffee bars with chocolate)

1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips ( I used milk chocolate)

1 tbl vegetable oil (I used butter) 2/3 cup pecans toasted and finely chopped

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk them to blend.
  2. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  3. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 2 additions, and mix until blended.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. Stir in the toffee bits.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Roll 2 logs about 9 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Flatten the logs into 2 1/2-inch-wide rectangles. Wrap rectangles in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until firm.
  6. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. With a long knife, cut the dough 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool cookies completely on the sheets. Bake remaining cookies.
  8. Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, heat the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until they melt. Stir in the oil and mix until smooth.
  9. Holding one side of the cookies, dip a part of each one into the chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over the cookies with a spoon. Sprinkle pecans on top. Let the chocolate set about 1 hour.

 

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies